Don Ya Sushi

West Princes Street, Glasgow

THIS Japanese fish roll, I’ll say to the man who’s zipping about and clearly running the place – make them in here? No, no he replies, both of us looking down at a full plate of these little tubes of (artfully processed) white fish, crisped, fried golden brown, drizzled with that sweet sticky teriyaki sauce. 

“We get them from a man in London,” he says. Ah, I reply, flipping another seamlessly onto the palate while almost at the same time cracking spiced edamame pods between my fingers and pinging those warm, still steaming, fresh beans onboard too – just to mellow things out. 

Right now I’ve almost worked my way through that mound of juicy tori karaage – nuggety, marinated chicken pieces in crispy batter. But not enough to have the empty platter removed when the beautiful nine-compartment bamboo drawer artfully filled with luxury teishoku (selection D) suddenly arrives.

What follows involves some shoving, squeezing and general re-arranging of food across this little table top, the glass of refreshing genmai tea (green with toasted rice) getting gulped down in the process. 

It’s around this point that I’m told that Don Ya Sushi is not, as I had dearly hoped, named after a mash-up between Marlon Brando and Joanna Lumley but after donburi – that everyday Japanese rice bowl that’s supposed to be the next Western big thing. And I haven’t actually ordered any. This I’ll put down to menu blindness. There being way, way too many things on this one, and that’s before we even get into the selection of aged saki. 

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And also to having my head turned by learning the chef in here trained in sushi, in Japan, for 10 whole years – though he is not actually Japanese.  

I’m here incidentally because I got an email about this place from Frank. A reader. Secret, basement, surprisingly good, he wrote and thinking I knew exactly what it used to be – a Chinese restaurant popular with the post-midnight, post-casino crowd where they fired out platters of fabulous egg yolk batter prawns – I saddled up.  

Well … It is in the same place. But, umm, somehow much neater, tidier, considerably cleaner – and when it comes to sushi, that sign of trust is supremely important – with a Zen vibe and a wall attractively made up entirely of paper lanterns.

Lanterns, incidentally, that turn out not to be nailed to that wall but suspended. Meaning the whole damn thing moves weirdly, as one, resulting in your unsuspecting fat food critic, sitting right under it, catching movement out the corner of his eye, getting false earthquake-alarm brain messages and grabbing the corners of his table. 

Causing tonight’s other diners to turn and stare, before snickering into their chopsticks. Ha. You have been warned.  

Anyway, the first thing out the teishoka box is miso glazed black cod – clean, savoury, good. Those sweetly soured slivers of seaweed – chuka salad – are next. I love this. The teriyaki chicken compartment is cleared next, then – ah, more torikara age. (Well, why not?) A moment or two to work out what the heck these sweet-tasting, smooth-textured, cubist shaped things are. The waiter is stopped. “That’s our homemade Japanese omelette,” he advises. Hmm, cold, different. 

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I’m now given a quick tutorial on how to use the ball of wasabi and bowl of soy (perceived wisdom is dip in soy – use fingers to fleck sushi with wasabi), which I ignore and just mix the two together. Then, I confess, drag both the pretty nigiri (tuna and salmon) through this mixture and pop them down in quick succession. This fish is good, fresh, firm. Followed up with triplets of salmon and tuna sashimi (also dunked), light, satisfying. 

Now. I steered the safety-first route through the menu here, but just glancing at its big pictures I can see that not only is the selection extensive and bold but it seems the sushi can be had on hand-crafted boats, wooden mini bridges ... there’s even some strange dangly tower thing. 

Interesting. As is Don Ya. Good shout, Frank.      

Don Ya Sushi

17 West Princes Street


Tel 0141-230-5421

Open: closes at 10 pm - check website

Menu: It’s actually all supposed to be about the Japanese rice bowls, but big (maybe too big) selection of sushi too. Interesting. 4/5

Service: On a quiet night with only a couple of other tables occupied, service was attentive, helpful and friendly. 4/5

Atmosphere: If you like the hidden restaurant vibe, this has it, plus floating lantern walls, and it seemed very clean 4/5

Price: That luxury Teishoku Box came in at £29.80, the edamame, fish rolls and even the Tori Karaage hovered around a very good value fiver each. 4/5

Food: I say way better than your average sushi joint, food very professionally and freshly prepared, the Teishoku box with its taste compartments well worth a whirl. 8/10

Total: 24/30